The Transylvania Times -

By David Whitmire
Headwaters Outfitters 

Rock Snot And Other Stream Invasives


Headwaters Outfitters fly fishing guides Ryan Kauffman and Chris Franzen cleaning gear to help prevent invasive stream organisms from spreading. Slowing the spread of Rock Snot and other species is important for river vitality. (Photos courtesy of Headwaters Outfitters)

The name speaks for itself when encountered. The scientific name, Didymosphenia geminata, or commonly known as didymo or rock snot, is one of the latest invasive organism to threaten our pristine mountain trout waters. Found and identified last fall

by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission on the Tuckaseegee River in Jackson County, rock snot is a clear warning that precautions need to be looked at. Although it is not considered a human health risk, it can affect stream habitats and food sources for fish and other river creatures. It also can make many recreation experiences unpleasant.

If that's not enough to get your attention, in 2014 on Cullasaja River Tributary, gill lice was found present in some brook trout. A tiny crustacean that attaches itself to the gill of trout and makes breathing difficult, impedes development and slows sexual maturation.

Some fear the warmer and more acidic water our streams have faced over the past 20 years may contribute to the increase in gill lice and other threats. In 2015 in the Watauga River, whirling disease was found for the first time in North Carolina. Although fatal to juvenile trout, it affects the adults by causing cartilage and skeletal tissue damage. It is not known to be harmful to humans.

Why worry about issues not within our watershed? First off, a 2008 NCWRC study shows that fisherman spent directly $146 million dollars and a total economic output of $174 million dollars. So any negative impact on these numbers directly affects local mountain economies. From a regional standpoint if folks think fishing is no longer good, the press alone could hurt us locally. From a resource stand point, the health and well-being of the streams and fish should always be a top priority. It quite simply is a connected ecosystem; while fish may be the most obvious effected, what other changes will occur from these new threats?

What can we do to stop these invasive organisms from entering our local waters here in Transylvania County?

At Headwaters Outfitters we have taken these new threats very seriously. As a paddling and fly-fishing shop, we have a unique opportunity to address two river user groups, which can be potential spreaders of these invasive organisms. As river runners travel to different rivers, hitchhikers can attach themselves to boats, paddles and tubes and can also be in left over water inside boats.

We have installed a cleaning station at Headwaters for the public to be able to spray their boats before and after they launch on the river. We don't treat our boats unless they are taken into other rivers, but we will use the treatment ourselves when we do. Several Western states and many local developments have started this policy in order to address cross contamination.

With our fishing program, waders and boots that travel outside of our home waters will need to be treated. We encourage the public to use both the boat spray and the dunking barrels to treat their boats and gear.

We hope through education, self-awareness and preventative measures we can keep these pests out of our local waters. It's not uncommon for boaters or fisherman to use multiple watersheds in a single day, increasing the chances of contamination. But with these new invasive organisms, I think an ounce of prevention is worth not risking our resources.

We will offer this cleaning station free to the public. Feel free to stop by Headwaters Outfitters to learn more about this effort, and let's spread the word, not the invasive organisms.

At home it is critical to clean and dry all your gear, even if you don't think a stream is contaminated. If your boating the same waters over and over lighter cleaning is okay, but when moving between watersheds or known contaminated streams, take extra precaution in cleaning and drying. For boats and tubes not used in known contaminated waters, a light mixture of 3 oz. of household bleach to one gallon of water is okay for known contaminated streams, a heavy mixture of 13 oz. of household bleach to one gallon of water mixture is called for. A garden sprayer can be used to coat the boats surface, then let dry.

For fishing waders and boots it is recommended a 10-minute soak in a 10 oz. of household bleach per gallon of water, then a full clean water rise and a complete air dry. The rinse is crucial for removing bleach after a soak for long-term care of the material.

Let's get the word out and stop these invasive organisms before they hit our favorite spots.

Rock Snot is not welcome here.


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